Punished Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys


Punished:Policing the Lives of Black and LatinoBoys

Punished:Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boy

Thebook isbasedon the hypercriminalizationof young Latino and African-Americanmen living in Oakland, California (Rios,2011).The book is written by Victor M. Rios a former member of gang andjuvenile delinquent who managed to reform and furthered his educationto earn a sociology doctorate in at Berkeley (Rios,2011).He explains how the difficulties of these two classes of young menare going through in his hometownwhere authorities harass, watch, profile and punish them during theiryoung ages even when they have not committed any crimes. His evidenceisbasedon a studyhe carried out for three years involving young 40 Latino and AfricanAmerican men living in Oakland (Rios,2011).The first half of the book explores how this dominant culture ofpunishment works and the second half of the book detail thedetrimental consequences for both young men and their society.

Inhis study Rios finds that young Latino and African American men asmost people think do not participate in delinquency or crime (Rios,2011).Unfortunately, however,they are the victims color marginalization and criminalizationthroughout the history of United States and currently the youthcontrol complex has changed and systematically treats everydaybehavior of these young men as actually criminal actions. Thiscomplex system consistsof social service authorities, police, business, community members,probation officers and even the family members. He finds that mostparents of these young men try to impart positive values to theirchildren and almost all of them aspired to join a college or start abusiness and have normallives just like any other human being (Rios,2011).However the bigger portion of the boys studied wasfrom the families living inextreme poverty and insufficient resources in their relatives,communities and schools halted their vocational and educationalprospects. Additionally,incarceration was a daily reality for the subjects of the study wherethirty of the young men studied were under arrest, fourteen of themhad their parent in prison and almost all of them had a belief thatthey would beincarceratedat some point in their youth lives (Rios,2011).

Theauthorillustrates several ways authorities and other adults in the UnitedStatesare mistreating Latino and black American young me (Rios,2011).Rios finds that police fail to end criminal activities in precarioussections of the community or offer protection to these ladsand their relatives,but instead they are routinely involved in excessive policing andbrutality. Officers usually friskthese young men without a justifiable reason and often give citationsfor disturbing the peace, loitering, violating curfew, failure towear a well-fitting bicycle helmet, drinking in public and othersmall offenses(Rios,2011).Ifpolicesuspect that Latino and black American young men look like members ofthe gang or drug sellers or have behaviors or styles that do notalign with the mainstream they bestow a markedly different type ofjustice they deliver in richsuburbs. If incasetheseyoung menare not in a position to pay for fines or miss the court dates, theymay end up facing warranties for arrest or trial that portend furthercriminalization (Rios,2011).

Riosalso explores the individuals in the community, school officials andeven the family members participate in control complex(Rios,2011).Schools often deal with problematic students as potentials where moststaff and teachers act like custodial guards uttering discouragingwords and threatening refer them to probation or police officers formisbehavior that could besolvedat the school level (Rios,2011).The youth control system as Rios put dehumanize and alienate thesetargeted young men making them feel unaccepted and never feelthemselves like a human.They seethemselves as an outcastand ashamedinternalizing what this complex system has been telling them thatthey are inherently criminals.


Thisbook offers a convincing analysisof hypercriminalizationof Latino and black American young men in Oakland, California (Rios,2011).Author has combined his personal background and his knowledge ofthe academic works on the criminology as well as ethnology with athree-yearresearch involving 40 lads from these two group ethnicities to createa noteworthy contribution to a better understanding of how societyparticipate in criminalization and oppression of these young men.Rio’s assertion of the aspirations and humanity of these lads israther strong,and he relentlessly revealshow social practices are systematically denying them their desiresand humanity (Rios,2011).He profoundly explains how these young men are the targetof harsh punishments that even lack rehabilitation and socialreintegration. Some laws used to arrestand convict these individuals according to the author areunrealistic. They aretermedas “petty acts of defiance” and they include violating schoolrule, refusing or failure to and answer a phone call from probationofficer among others.

Theedge book has over the other several books,and journals isthe fact that it has deeply covered the characteristics of youthcontrol complex that has received little attention fromthe other books which have concentrated more on police brutality andmass incarceration. His book has profoundlyaddressed the issues of this complex helping to bridge the literaturegap created by other books that fail to address this problemadequately. Author’s analysis of the part played by the schoolofficials, police and probation officers, and family members in thissystem is particularly informative (Rios,2011).His argument on the social and psychological destruction inflicted tothis group of young men by hypercriminalizationis both informative and touching.

However,the book would have been even better if the author had used a reducedextensive review of associated scholarly literature and acompleteexplanation of the fates and experiences of young men involved in hisstudy (Rios,2011).As much as some parts of the literature reviewsareuseful some of it is not. Although the larger part of the book isreadily comprehensible to non-specialists, it has some quotationsfrom other works and author occasionally uses unnecessarysociological jargons making some parts of the book lessunderstandable (Rios,2011).The bigger space allocated to literature review also impedes acomprehensive and even more commanding report on the ladsparticipating in the study. Most of the attention-grabbing parts arethe ones Rio recounts the experiences of some young men,and this can leave many readers wanting to know more about these ladsand what has become of them. Additionally, Rio’s recommended answerto hypercrinalizationis not close as influential as his criticism of the problem (Rios,2011).

Rioonly acknowledges the role played by neoliberalism and capitalistglobalization in deplorable economic and political conditionsexperienced by many Oakland residents. He calls for the needto modify the socialorder of communities living in poverty conditions as well as socialcontexts in which people make vital decisions about their lives(Rios,2011).However,he shuns any systematicsocialmodification call and instead expects that policy formulators willcreate policies and reallocate resources from programs of criminaljustice to nurturing organizations. Such expectations areunquestionably well-intentioned but weak when compared with socialissues the author profoundly illuminated (Rios,2011).


Rios,V. M. (2011). Punished:Policing the Lives of Black and Latino Boys.NYU Press.